Sunday, December 27, 2020

Yu Suzuki's Plans for 2021: "Shooting / RPG" plus a Sequel Tease []

"110 Game Creators' New Year's Resolutions" (the jumping cow represents the 2021 animal sign of the Chinese Zodiac: the Ox)

As in previous years, Japanese website has released their annual survey of members of the games industry, interviewing a total of 110 game creators. The survey asks each to choose a word or phrase that sums up their direction for the coming year, as well as a New Year's Resolution and goal.

The survey responses may be new, but Famitsu's recycled photo of Yu Suzuki is not! (It's from their 2016 interview, in fact).

Here are Yu Suzuki's responses for this year's survey:

Q: Your Keyword for 2021?

YS: Shooting / RPG.
Q: Your New Year's Resolution?

1) Look back on competitive fighting games.
2) The sequel to...

Q: Status update?

YS: On November 19th, 2020, Shenmue III was released on Steam and GOG. I hope that the New Year of 2021 will be a time for people to unwind at home and heal their body and soul with a relaxing game like Shenmue. 
Q: What will you be keeping an eye on in 2021?

YS: I sincerely hope that the coronavirus will be contained and that the Tokyo Olympics will be held safely and smoothly.
In Yu Suzuki's response to the first question about his keyword for next year he mentions two seemingly-distinct game styles. This may be an indication of that his studio will have multiple projects in progress including a shooter / shoot-em-up game and an RPG (presumably excluding the FREE-based Shenmue).

Yu Suzuki hinted in Famitsu's previous survey, which came soon after the successful release of Shenmue III, that he had been planning to start "a new project" in the upcoming year. In IGN Japan's April interview, he also expressed interest in creating new games across various genres (racing, fighting, fantasy, science fiction, story-based games, titles suitable for esports). We have not heard any concrete news from YS Net since then - could it be that that projects revolving around one or both of these ideas are already underway?

In the second response, one of Yu Suzuki's New Year's Resolutions is to "look back" on competitive fighting games. It would be an exciting development if the father of the Virtua Fighter franchise were to develop a new twist on combat games.

The other part to the New Year's Resolution response was left deliberately open-ended: "The sequel to..." - surely a tease especially for Shenmue fans! Yu Suzuki spoke earlier in the year, in the above-mentioned IGN Japan interview, of his desire to continue on to a Shenmue IV if the demand is there, and I'd like to think that this response is a reaffirmation of that, or even better an indication that there may be some movement behind the scenes for the sequel.

We feel hopeful that there will be some interesting project news announced by Yu Suzuki and YS Net in 2021.
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Friday, December 25, 2020

Merry Xmas from Phantom River Stone

Thank you to everyone for supporting the blog, and a special shout-out to our amazing patrons!

Have a safe and happy Christmas everyone! メリークリスマス!

This image is from a Christmas Card that was distributed to attendees of the Shenmue Premiere in 1999.

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Thursday, December 17, 2020

The 3 Years I Spent Recording Shenmue at SEGA: Susumu Aketagawa | Translation

This is a translation of an interview published by Japanese website Anime Hack in 2019, in which sound director Susumu Aketagawa talks about his time spent at SEGA during the creation of the original Shenmue games.

Susumu Aketagawa in 1999 directing a voice recording for Shenmue

About Susumu Aketagawa

Susumu Aketagawa is the president of the company Magic Capsule and a director of the Japan Audio Producers' Association. He has been involved in the field of sound since the dawn of Japanese animation, and his works as a sound director include Princess Knight, AKIRA, Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Mistin (Kasumin) and many others.

The 3 Years I Spent Recording Shenmue at SEGA

I was working on several games, but the one I was most involved with was the Sega Shenmue series (Shenmue: Chapter 1: Yokosuka and Shenmue II). I was in charge of some casting and dubbing direction, and although I wasn't involved in the music or sound effects, it was an interesting job, recorded in a completely different way than my animation work.

Shenmue became a topic of conversation due to its huge budget and large-scale production, but the method of voice recording was also very different from usual. For about three years I went in to Sega's studio in Haneda, Tokyo, for three days a week to record from about 10 a.m. until evening. As well as being used in the game, the recordings made were also useful during the game's creation.

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Saturday, December 12, 2020

Where Did the Road Past Sumiya-san's House Originally Lead?

Situated as Sakuragaoka is, on the side of a hill, stone walls are a common sight along the roads that lead to and from the neighborhood. However there is one particular wall that feels a little out of place, and that is the wall that blocks off the end of the road that leads up past the house of Sumiya-san (who can often be found nearby, meticulously sweeping a patch of road near her house entrance).

But investigation of some of the unused map data for the game reveals clues that this road was once been going to continue onwards.

Let's have a look at what can be uncovered!
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Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for December 2020

Every month Phantom River Stone holds a poll among our patrons to choose a topic for the blog in the coming month. After tallying the votes (including accumulated votes from previous months), the winning topic for the end of 2020 is...

New Year decorations and costumes in Shenmue.

The way the changing seasons are depicted in Shenmue really helps to make the player aware of the passage of time within the game. The atmosphere of the snowy streets and parks of Yokosuka is one of the most memorable aspects of the first game which really draws the player into the world.

In this post we will be looking at how the world of Shenmue reflects New Year celebrations in Japan. During New Year, the streets undergo a complete change with festive decorations displayed on street posts and above shops. Characters can be also seen dressed up in festive kimono costume. 

While none of these New Year changes directly affect the game's story, they serve to deepen the realism of the world.

Watch for it on the blog in the near future!
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Monday, December 7, 2020

Double Blow: A Glimpse into How Virtua Fighter Continues to Inform Shenmue’s World | Guest Post by Segalicious

Segalacious is back again with a new post, this time an analysis of the background of Yamagishi-san and some intriguing ties to Virtua Fighter lore!


In terms of its history and lore, there is more to Shenmue than meets the eye. Though it retains its own distinct identity as a stand-alone series, Shenmue’s shared history with Virtua Fighter means that its world will forever be inextricably tied to the same backdrop as Sega’s greatest fighting game franchise. Like the Yin and Yang of traditional Chinese philosophy, no full understanding of one can be obtained at the expense or deficit of the other.

Just as an unassuming character like Shigeo Yamagishi once taught Ryo the secret of Yin and Yang, a look below the surface of this character’s past reveals insights that deepen one’s understanding of both Shenmue and Virtua Fighter to such an extent that neither can be looked at in the same way ever again. Prepare for a glimpse into the heart of each series’ deepest lore. Let’s get into it!

Just as Yamagishi-san taught Ryo the secret of Yin and Yang, his past holds the key to some of the deepest lore shared by both Shenmue and Virtua Fighter.
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Thursday, December 3, 2020

Naoyuki's Stylish Motorbike Key Tag | SEGA Branding in Shenmue

Various branding can be found scattered throughout the Shenmue games. Right from the start of the first Shenmue, when Ryo explores his room and the contents of the desk and closet, the numerous small objects and items within give the world a lived-in feel; and such is the detail that many in-game items even have their own branding. In some cases, real-life licensed brands were used through agreements with the manufacturers, and in others they were made-up. And a small number proudly carry the SEGA brand.

In this post we'll go through some of the Sega-branded objects that can be found in Ryo's house and elsewhere in the first Shenmue game - some of which are obvious, and others which are only apparent upon the closest examination.

Genuine Sega Items

The most obvious Sega items are those which are manufactured or made under official license in real-life, such as the arcade games at the You arcade (we'll also include the Shenmue-specific variations such as the darts games), capsule toy machines, game posters such as the Virtua Fighter ones in Fukuhara-san's room, and of course the Sega Saturn console at the Hazuki residence.

Shenmue I & II Rebranding

A case of Sega branding that can be seen in the recent Shenmue I & II re-release of the game serves to replace the branding in the original Dreamcast version of the game: Ryo's wristwatch. This originally had a Timex brand on the watch's face but in the re-release, this has been changed to SEGA, presumably to avoid licensing complications. The watch's appearance and functionality were not changed however, and it is still instantly recognizable as a Timex.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Mystery of the White Leaf | Shenmue Theories Guest Post by Segalacious

It is a great pleasure to welcome Segalacious to the blog for the first time with an intriguing theory post on the ever-mysterious White Leaf! Over to Segalacious.


Shenmue’s universe is one steeped in mystery and intrigue. Secrets regarding the martial arts as well as the secrets of history linger just beyond the reach of Ryo, and therefore the player, every step of his quest for revenge as he walks the path of destiny. Most enigmatic of all is Ryo’s father, Iwao, whose shrouded past contains not only a closet of skeletons, but apparently an entire basement full of them as well. During Ryo’s search for the Phoenix mirror in said basement, he discovers a white leaf inside of an old Chinese zodiac book. After commenting with surprise that the leaf is not even dry, Ryo places it in his inventory where it has remained without another reference and, seemingly, without purpose for the entirety of Shenmue II and III.

In his eternal search for answers, finding this item probably didn’t provide Ryo much re-leaf.

That this leaf remains to this day in Ryo’s inventory suggests that it must have some kind of significance to Shenmue’s story down the road. Is it simply to foreshadow Ryo’s leaf catching training in Wanchai’s Man Mo Temple, a tasty herb meant to be used for tea, or something more? Put on your tinfoil hats, Friendmues, because it’s time for a Shenmue Theory. Let’s get into it!

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Saturday, November 21, 2020

Niaowu Confidential Part 2 - Wu Shen Hall | Guest Post by Dave Matthews (SalsaShark)

Niaowu Confidential Part 2 - Wu Shen Hall

Hi everyone!  It's been a little while (again...sorry about that), but I'm back with another Shenmue 3 post.  Thanks, once again, to Switch for graciously providing the opportunity to share with you!  As I did previously for Martial Hall in Bailu Village, today I'm going to take a deep dive into who the name plaques posted on the ranking boards at Wu Shen Hall represent.

If you missed my previous Niaowu Confidential post highlighting Ma Jialing, you can find it here:

Also if you are interested in checking out who's who at Martial Hall, go here:

The Wu Shen rankings initially present a somewhat more daunting task than did those at Martial Hall due mainly to the addition of 5 extra Duan rankings, and a higher number of name plaques per rank.  Also to be contended with are the greater size of Niaowu in general over Bailu and the lack of a convenient in-game way to translate those name plaques (à la Man Yuan Temple).  

Nevertheless there is a logic to who is included here that makes it much easier to handle than you might think.  First, we do still have all of the trainee monks occupying the left-most positions at each rank. Second, it turns out that the Rose Garden fighters are also all ranked members of Wu Shen Hall!  This effectively cuts the number of not easily translatable names in half.  

The first curious thing to mention is that Wu Shen instructor, Hu Guitong, is not actually listed on the boards at all!  Very strange....

Hu Guitong is not listed... what's the deal with that?

Without further ado, let's start with the board on the left wall (the master and novice board):

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Friday, November 20, 2020

Shenmue III Complete Edition from Limited Run Games: Orders Open Today

Limited Run Games (LRG) has announced a new limited collectors edition called the Shenmue III Complete Edition for the PS4, priced at USD $149.99 with orders opening today 20th November at 10 am ET (3 pm GMT) from the Limited Run Games site.

Production will be limited to 3,000 copies available worldwide, although it is not a part of the numbered Limited Run Collection.


This offering is an LRG exclusive, with the idea for the project being conceived by owner Josh Fairhurst after Shenmue III's release last year in November/December, when the game ended up being his favorite of the year!
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Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Ryan Payton Interview by Shenmue Dojo

In his early career, Ryan worked for Konami in Japan, then later at Microsoft in the US. He currently runs his own games studio, Camouflaj.

Shenmue Dojo has released a special audio interview for their 20th anniversary celebrations with games industry veteran Ryan Payton, someone who was instrumental behind the scenes in helping Shenmue III become a reality by educating and convincing Yu Suzuki about the potential of crowdfunding, as well as freely giving his time to give Yu advice and feedback on the game during its development.

The interview was arranged and conducted by Dojo co-owner Matt Oliver who asked some great questions, and the interview makes for a compelling and insightful listen in a casual chat format.

A few pertinent quotes from Ryan during the interview:

On contacting Yu Suzuki to propose Kickstarter: "I emailed [Yu Suzuki] and I basically said, 'Look, it's been bothering me for longer than you can imagine that you haven't been able to continue this franchise, and I think I have an idea for how you can make Shenmue III' and he writes back and says, 'Wait, who are you?'"
On Yu Suzuki's forklift tweet at E3: "I have to say, that he was right about that tweet. Even though I was nervous about it, I think what it did was that it was a rally cry to the Shenmue community that it needed to pay attention to what's happening at E3. So I think he was right about that."
On recognizing the achievements of Shenmue III: "From a development perspective, this thing is a damn miracle. They did not start with the codebase of Shenmue I and II. He and his team recreated so many complex systems from Shenmue I and II in a new engine they had never used before, on a platform they had never shipped on, and they delivered on a game that had more features and more length than anyone was expecting. And that should be celebrated."
On Shenmue IV: "A reason to be hopeful for the future is that, if there is an opportunity to work on a sequel, to build a Shenmue IV, instead of spending 70% of their time building the foundation and then 30% building the content, they can spend 80% of their time building content for a sequel. And that is the secret ingredient of almost all the best video games of all time."
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Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Shenmue World: Fan-made Magazine on Kickstarter (Fully Funded!)

The Shenmue Dojo has just celebrated its 20th anniversary, and as part of the celebrations a new Kickstarter project was announced: Shenmue World is a fanzine that boasts 160+ pages of full-color fan-created content on Shenmue, packed with contributions from fans around the world,

The creator behind the whole project, Shenmue Dojo co-owner James Brown, has poured untold months of time and effort into designing and producing this magazine, and the result is something that any fan will be delighted to have on their shelf. The project is entirely non-profit, with the costs having been meticulously calculated to cover the costs of ordering a mass print of the items and shipping them to backers globally, all of which is laid out very transparently on the project page.

As the product creation and design has already been completed up-front, then after successful completion of the Kickstarter period the only remaining task is the physical print order.

In the Kickstarter project video (below), James gives a sneak preview of some of the magazine's content, and the high production values of the product impresses. The varied content includes an interview, fan art, cosplay photos, articles, manga... and a lot more that's waiting to be discovered once the magazine is in the backers' hands.

Incredibly, the reward for backing the project is not just the magazine itself, but also a number of Shenmue-themed extras: a music CD of tracks by RyoX, a print hand-signed by voice actor Eric Kelso, an A3 poster of the superb artwork by Kohji Nakazawa as featured on the magazine's cover, and even a set of Guilin picture postcards. A nice additional touch is that every backer's name will also be printed inside the magazine.

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Friday, November 13, 2020

New Kenji Miywaki Art | Shenmue III Soundtrack Digital Pre-Orders Open

Brave Wave has announced that pre-orders are now open for the Digital Edition of the Shenmue III Soundtrack.

Head over to the Bandcamp page for "Shenmue III - The Definitive Soundtrack" to listen to 5 of the tracks which are available for free preview:

  • Shenmue Theme - Piano
  • Hide & Seek
  • Main Theme Kokyu (Erhu) Solo
  • Boundless Lands
  • Happy Convenience (The Tomato Mart Theme!)

Along with this announcement, a custom piece of art by character designer Kenji Miyawaki was also revealed. On Twitter, Brave Wave said:

"For our upcoming Shenmue III OST, we teamed up with original Shenmue artist Kenji Miyawaki to create a brand new illustration exclusively available with the complete OST".

It looks amazing! 

See our earlier post for information on the release schedule of the various editions:

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Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for November 2020

Every month Phantom River Stone holds a poll among our patrons to choose a topic for the blog in the coming month. After tallying the votes (including accumulated votes from previous months), the result for November was a tie! Switch stepped in to make the deciding vote, and so the winning topic is...

Voice recording for the original Shenmue: interview with Susumu Aketagawa.

Susumu Aketagawa is a highly-regarded sound director who has worked on a huge number of anime and other titles over the years, notably including the 1988 animated film Akira.

Aketagawa spent 3 years working on Shenmue I & II, in charge of casting and dubbing. We will be translating an article he wrote last year for Japanese website Anime Hack about his experience on the project.

Watch for it on the blog in the near future!

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Saturday, October 31, 2020

Part 2/2: Shenmue the Animation: Famitsu Interview with Yu Suzuki & Yu Kiyozono [ENG Translation]

This is the second and final part of Famitsu's interview with two of the key people behind the project: producer Yu Kiyozono and executive producer Yu Suzuki.

This translation continues from Part One.

Famitsu: It really is a creation with many passionate fans; did you feel any trepidation about your decision to make it into an anime?

Kiyozono: Yes, of course - a lot!

Famitsu: [laughs]

Kiyozono: First of all, there was the hurdle of whether I would be able to get an OK from Yu-san, and since I was wanting to make Shenmue, I would also have to obtain permission from the publisher, Sega.

Even though we belong to the same company group, I still felt pressure. Among the high-ups who were in a position to give permission for the proposal for the anime project, were many who once worked alongside Yu-san when they were younger, you see. They said to me, "Will you really be able to pull this off?"...

Famitsu: Immense pressure! [laughs]

Kiyozono: They told me I mustn't let Yu-san down. While feeling a bit of pressure at the way they asked "Can you make something that's respectable?", they responded to my desire to make it by allowing the project through.

Famitsu: I'm glad.

Kiyozono: Projects to turn something like Shenmue into an anime aren't that common in today's anime industry. Even so, with our team, I'm confident that we can make something worthy. It will be challenging and substantial, but I'm grateful to be able to take it on.
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Wednesday, October 28, 2020

[Part 1/2] Shenmue the Animation: Famitsu Interview with Yu Kiyozono & Yu Suzuki | ENG Translation

Following the recent announcement of Shenmue the Animation, arranged an extensive interview with two of the key people behind the project: producer Yu Kiyozono and executive producer Yu SuzukiThis is Part One of our two-part full translation of the article.

Mystery and Anticipation: How "Shenmue the Animation" Came About

1999: the action-adventure game Shenmue was released for the Dreamcast. Its sequel Shenmue II was released in 2001 and then, after a long blank period, Shenmue III in 2019.

On 5 September 2020 an announcement was made for an anime, which was received with surprise and delight by Shenmue fans in Japan and around the world. It will be the first time an anime for the Shenmue series has been produced since its initial release.

Even with that being so, what prompted Shenmue to be made into an anime now in particular? With a view to learning how it came to be and the aim of its 2021 transformation to anime, we spoke with two Yu-san's: Yu Kiyozono, CEO of Telecom Animation Film and producer of this anime, and Yu Suzuki, creator of the Shenmue series.


President and CEO of Telecom Animation Film. Producer of Shenmue the Animation. Recently he has been working on TV movie versions of the Lupin the 3rd series.

Yu Suzuki

President and CEO of Ys Net. Creator of the Shenmue series. When at (then) Sega Enterprises, he worked on projects such as the Virtua Fighter series and Hang On, bringing into the world numerous revolutionary new games.

Why is Shenmue Being Made into an Anime Now?

Famitsu: I was extremely surprised to learn that Shenmue, the first part of which was released in 1999, will be made into an anime. Why is it that the "Shenmue the Animation" project has come about now, in 2020?

Kiyozono:  Well, to give a little explanation about the current state of the anime industry for background, it is partly because nowadays streaming-based services have grown immensely.

Famitsu: The Shenmue anime will be a joint production between the US anime streaming site Crunchyroll and the anime channel of the Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, won't it.

Kiyozono: Yes, with Telecom Animation Film creating the animation. These days, Japanese anime are watched not just in Japan but all over the world.

In the old days, an anime would be localized for overseas broadcasting: things like the music, the intro song, and even the content would be altered. It was normal for such "filters" to be applied before its overseas showing.

But the growing trend with streaming recently is to watch with on-screen subtitles, with the voices left as the Japanese of the original voice actors. Viewers overseas have started to want to enjoy them the way they were made by the Japanese creators.

Famitsu: Mm, mm.

Kiyozono: I had been wanting to further strengthen our overseas content delivery, and was looking for a strong title for overseas. I thought that Shenmue would be one contender. The game has sold well globally, and when we were getting the project off the ground it was also when Yu-san was working on making Shenmue III, so I was aware that it had a lot of passionate fans.

Regarding taking the animation project proposal to the original creators, I thought that with the content being from Sega Group, of which Telecom Animation Film is also a part, it would likely make it for a relatively smooth discussion, so I thought I'd make an initial enquiry... and that's how this project began.
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Saturday, October 24, 2020

Shenmue III Soundtracks Announced | Summary of Editions

Just as Shenmue fans are recovering from the excitement of the announcement of a Shenmue Anime comes news of an upcoming release of... the Shenmue III soundtrack!

Recent Shenmue soundtrack releases have been for the first two Shenmue games, such as the vinyl releases by Data Discs, and the Shenmue I & II Sound Collection that originally accompanied the Japanese Limited Edition release and has more recently been made available digitally.

While those releases comprised a limited selection of the soundtrack music, the Shenmue III soundtrack release will make available a huge 195 music compositions - some original to the game, and some that were also present in the two earlier games. This collaboration between YS Net, Brave Wave Productions and Limited Run Games will allow fans to fully enjoy the music that permeates the game, and each track has been remastered for maximum audio quality.

A number of options have been prepared to suit different budgets and formats, with the vinyl sets in particular offering a diverse selection:
  • Formats: Digital, CD and Vinyl
  • Vinyl editions include a Complete Collection, a curated 33-track "Music Selection" set, a "Bailu village" set and a "Niaowu" set.
The physical editions include a booklet of liner notes (in both English and Japanese) by Yu Suzuki and "other members of the Shenmue community", as well as archival artwork. In the case of the vinyl editions, these also come with a digital download key.

Of particular interest to collectors will be the special limited-edition Complete Collection vinyl set (500 units only) which includes an exclusive A4 poster signed by Yu Suzuki. These are likely to be snapped up when pre-orders commence for them on November 20.

Here's a handy summary table we put together to help compare the various options at a glance, based on the current details on the Brave Wave site.

Which to choose...?

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Friday, October 16, 2020

Yu Fractures a Rib: Yu Suzuki's 1994 China Research Trip, Part 7 | Translation

A continuation of our series on Yu Suzuki's 1994 Research Trip to China. This topic was selected by the Phantom River Stone blog patrons via our monthly poll on Patreon and was available for early access.

In the early 1990s, Yu Suzuki made a seminal trip to China. His objective was to research and gather material for his upcoming Virtua Fighter 2, and this research also influenced his concept for a "Virtua Fighter RPG" which eventually came to be known as Shenmue.

Previous posts in this series of blog posts:

  • In Part One, we translated blog entries about the trip by Kazunari Uchida, the person who accompanied Yu Suzuki.
  • Part Two is a magazine article in which Yu Suzuki gives own comments about his trip, and how his findings would be useful for the development of the Virtua Fighter series.
  • In Part Three, Yu's traveling companion, Kazunari Uchida, talks about how he first met Yu Suzuki and his curiosity to learn about the genius behind the man during the upcoming trip.
  • Part Four is Kazunari Uchida's journal entry for the start of the trip itself: Day One - Beijing.
  • Part Five is Days Two and Three of the trip in which Yu travels to Luoyang, Xi'an and Dengfeng, and arrives at Shaolin Temple.
  • In Part Six (Days Four through Six) Yu observes fighting demonstrations at Shaolin Temple in Dengfeng county.
Now we continue from last time, when Master De Li at Shaolin temple has just offered to teach Yu Suzuki the "essence of Shaolin Kung Fu" if he stayed for two months at the temple...

The route Yu follows this time, from Luoyang to Cangzhou.

Yu, who was deeply impressed at his martial arts demonstration, took his words seriously and even muttered "After I'm back home I'll adjust my schedule right away...". After the ever-busy Master De Li left, his students demonstrated variants of Shaolin Kung Fu styles, one after the other: Xing Yi Quan, Piguazhang, Seven Star Fist, Bodhidharma Style and Eagle Style Boxing. Every one of them was a style Yu was contemplating implementing in new characters.

Yu was particularly taken with the Eagle and Seven Star styles and, asking the student that had demonstrated these to teach him how to counter-attack, he once again launched a strike.

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Friday, October 9, 2020

The Legend of Akira Scripts: Two Pages Translated

Last year in 2019, shortly before the release of Shenmue III, Game Informer made a trip to Japan where they visited YS Net and spent time with Yu Suzuki. One of the highlights was a viewing of the early set of 1996 scripts named "The Legend of Akira", which make up the initial chapters of the "Virtual RPG" that was to go on to become Shenmue.

During the relevant section of the video, the camera pans briefly across a couple of pages of text, and so for the first time ever we have the opportunity to translate these pages for fans to enjoy!

The pages displayed are actually from a document printed on white paper that Yu-san hands to the interviewers to flip through. I believe that these white pages hold an exact copy of the text contained in the blue books - but with the name of Akira updated to Ryo throughout (with one exception found, which we will get to later).

The two pages are from near the start of the story:

The first page is an introductory flashback showing Ryo as a boy (age uncertain) being lectured by his father in the dojo. It starts with cinematic views of Yokosuka and the Hazuki residence, ending in the dojo interior. Elements of this scene can be felt strongly in the dojo flashback from the release version.

The second page can be recognized as being part of the cut scene that starts the release version of the game, where Iwao is killed by Lan Di (who is called Cang Long in the script). There are some interesting points of difference compared to the release version, not least of which is that the dojo becomes engulfed in flames (perhaps set deliberately by Lan Di's men), with Ryo barely managing to escape. This may have posed a problem had it been kept in the final game, as it would have rendered the dojo unusable!

There is also a dream sequence in which Ryo relives the fight with Lan Di.

Right, let's get into the translations! I have added some small additional notes in places.

The translations start below.

First Page Translation

Chapter 01: "Yokosuka"

● Flashback:

Looking down from a hill with a view of a bay whose surface glistens in the distance, and the town of Yokosuka below. Standing here is a dojo, once an old temple that has been turned into a place of training for martial arts.

The majestic gate is a remnant from the time it was a temple. Above it is a sign bearing the words "Hazuki Dojo" in ink, written with powerful brush strokes. Through the gate is what was originally the main temple building, now the Hazuki residence. Moving to the right around the house, a cherry tree stands imposingly, like a god protecting the grounds. The raucous singing of cicadas pours down from its lush green foliage, along with piercing midsummer rays of sunlight. Going further along the side, there is a dojo. The camera moves inside its wide-open entrance-way. 

Footage from the Saturn (unreleased) version of Shenmue reflects the description in the script, with the cherry tree being shown in full foliage on a sunny summer day. The tree is located nearer the house rather than being at the far end of the garden as in the release version.

Inside the dojo. In complete contrast to the heat outside, cool air drifts over the floorboards, which are polished to the point of reflecting one's face.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Switch on FriendmueCast Episode 5 hosted by Segalicious

I had the pleasure of being invited to join an episode (#5) of FriendmueCast, the Shenmue podcast series hosted by Segalicious. We spent an hour or so chatting about various Shenmue-related topics, including how I got started with this blog, Shenmue's roots in Virtua Fighter, some theory talk from Segalicious, thoughts on Shenmue 3 & 4 and a "name the character" mini pop quiz.

The episode is embedded below.

The Shenmue Passport fan-made app, Suka Pass, that we talk about can be downloaded for Anrdoid & iOS from the app's website.

The FriendmueCast podcast series features various guests from the Shenmue community (including even voice actor Corey Marshall) and I highly recommended them - they can be found on the Shenmue Fans channel. Segalicious has also produced some great theory and analysis videos on Shenmue as well as Virtua Fighter, which you can find on his Virtua Bros channel on YouTube.

Segalicious holds a number of intriguing Shenmue theories that I'd love to hear more about. I hope to be able to twist his arm for a guest post on the blog about one of these in the near future.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for October 2020

Every month Phantom River Stone holds a poll among our patrons to choose a topic for the blog in the coming month. After tallying the votes (including accumulated votes from previous months), the winning topic for October is...

"Where did the road past Sumiya-san's house in Sakuragaoka originally lead?"

Sumiya-san is the housewife who can often be found sweeping the road in front of her house in Sakuragaoka in the first game of the Shenmue series, with a key role in providing Ryo with information as to what happened on the day of "the incident"...

Sumiya-san's house is situated on a dead-end road, with a solid rock wall at that point. But the way the road ends so abruptly with a wall built across it does feel a little peculiar, almost as if it is hiding a secret...

In fact there is evidence to be found that there originally were other plans for this part of the game map. 

Watch for the article coming to the blog in the coming weeks!

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Friday, September 25, 2020

Shenmue Clothing Through the Years | Guest Post by James Brown

A vast amount of merchandise has been produced for the Shenmue series since its release on the Dreamcast in Japan back in 1998. As an avid Shenmue collector, it used to surprise me, but now I have more of a shocked feeling that SEGA and various other companies have released such an incredible amount of items for a game series that is seemingly considered "niche".

People are often quick to attack the total cost of the original games as setting world records for the most expensive games every created. However, if you take into account all the merchandise that came with the marketing that Shenmue had, from small video game shop events to huge-scale events such as E3 and TGS (not to mention its own special events) and with batches of new items being added quite often to this day, some of those original "losses" must have been recouped by now!

In this post I'd like to take a more specific look at all of the clothing items that have been released and sold since 1998.

After reading this post, the next time you see a tweet from SEGA asking fans what Shenmue merchandise they would like to see next, and someone inevitably chimes in thinking they have an original idea for a "Ryo Hazuki jacket"... you'll be able to let them know that there have already been 6 (and technically more)!

I'm going to go through everything that I am aware of (and for the most part, own myself), in chronological time order. 

Let's begin with the aforementioned Ryo Hazuki jackets!


[2001] SEGA Promotional Jackets

For the sake of completeness, let's start by mentioning the jackets that were created by SEGA for their promotion of Shenmue 2 in 2001. This is the technicality mentioned above about the number of jackets made to date.

Japanese voice actor Masaya Matsukaze wore one at events such as the AM2 Summer Festival, and in a mock "television commercial" promo video for Shenmue II.
Masaya Matsukaze wearing Ryo's jacket at the AM2 Summer Festival event in 2001
Masaya Matsukaze wearing Ryo's jacket at the AM2 Summer Festival event in 2001
The jacket also made an appearance in a mock "television commercial" for Shenmue II
The jacket also made an appearance in a mock "television commercial" for Shenmue II
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Saturday, September 19, 2020

Niaowu Confidential Part 1 - Ma Jialing | Guest Post by Dave Matthews (SalsaShark)

Hello and welcome to Part I of Niaowu Confidential! Thanks again to Switch for the opportunity to post at Phantom River Stone!

If you missed my earlier series, 'Bailu Village Secrets', Part I is here.

Today I'd like to delve into a character that pretty much every player will be familiar with, but who makes her presence felt around town in some intriguing and non-obvious ways, Ma Jialing!

Jialing in her element

Yu Suzuki, in a production interview for Shenmue III, has stated that Jialing is one of his favorite NPCs in the game. At one point he mentions her as one of the 'Three Beauties of Niaowu' - a group of three women who each have a secret customer phone card somewhere in town!

Jialing's secret phone card

See here for Switch's excellent post translating the interview: 

The first thing new players are likely to notice upon entering Hotel Niaowu for the first time are the hair curlers. Jialing has a perpetual rainbow of large curlers twisting her dark hair; how that doesn't hurt like crazy after a few minutes I have no idea. Otherwise, Jialing dresses for comfort in slippers, a loose floral skirt, and a bright red cardigan. It's a very motherly vibe all in all, and that sense only increases when first confronted with her blunt, no-nonsense demeanor. Jialing feels like an homage to the popular 'badass landlady' character trope seen in old kung-fu movies (think 'Kung-Fu Hustle).

Source: IMDB
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Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Shenmue Undub: Definitive Edition | Video & Download

Case mock-up art by Shenmue Forever

In this post, we present an improved version of the Kogami Shenmue Undub, brought to you by Shenmue Master and Phantom River Stone. Download using the links below, and read on for more information about the Undub: Definitive Edition!

March 2023 Update!

  • Previously, a separate step was necessary to enable subtitles before starting play by selecting "Game Mode" via the main Shenmue settings menu. This is no longer the case!

    Thanks to Derek Pascarella, the disc images have been updated so that Game Mode is set on by default meaning the subtitles will be displayed without this additional action. Many thanks to Derek! Check out his various Dreamcast and translation projects over on Twitter
  • The information text for Disc 3 of the GDI version has been corrected (this previously incorrectly displayed as being GD-ROM2/4).

Download Shenmue Undub: Definitive Edition for the Dreamcast

Disclaimerto legally use this you must own an original copy of Shenmue for the Dreamcast.

GDI images are now also available. Many thanks to Guillaume Nunes for preparing these!

A download page for the Shenmue Undub is also now available over at the Shenmue Dojo.

Features & General Information

What is the Shenmue Undub (Definitive Edition) all about? Here is a brief list of features:

  • Based on the Kogami Undub: this version builds upon the most complete fan-made Undub version, which was created by Kogami and runs on the Dreamcast.
  • Full English subtitles: the official translated lines are used where available. A small number of the Japanese spoken lines (around 3%) which did not have English equivalent translations available have been translated by hand. A few small corrections were also made to fix specific lines that had incorrect grammar or meaning.
  • Full Japanese audio with no down-sampling.
  • PAL-compatible save files: saves can be carried over to the PAL version of Shenmue II.
  • CDDA audio tracks included: recorded audio tracks play as expected during the game (e.g. the music that plays when Ryo rides home from the harbor with Nozomi on the back of his motorcycle).
  • Coca Cola branding: the branding for the vending machines and soda cans in the game shows the Coca Cola branding, as seen in the Japanese version of Shenmue..
  • Fixes for small glitches identified in the previous Undub version (e.g. conversations when Ryo knocked on house doors did not play out properly).
  • Fits on standard CD-R discs: the images have been stream-lined to allow them to be played on a Dreamcast console using standard CD-R discs, with no missing or cut content.

Useful Notes

  • Save files: Shenmue Undub loads and creates PAL (50Hz) compatible save files. Using a VMU that has NTSC save files may give an "Attempt to load game unsuccessful" error.
  • ReDream emulator: this emulator runs the GDI version of the disc images (unzip these first). Under System Options, set the Broadcast setting to "pal".


A few years ago we talked about a "100% translation" project that was underway by Shenmue Master and Phantom River Stone to produce an improved "Shenmue Undub" (Japanese audio + English subtitles) for the Dreamcast.

Previous fan builds of an Shenmue Undub had paved the way and already represented great achievements, and the Kogami version in particular was recognized as the most comprehensive version to date. There were however a few known issues still to overcome, such as a small percentage of subtitle lines that remained in Japanese for NPCs and a couple of minor glitches. Also, due to size requirements, the use of (notoriously-unreliable) 99-minute discs was necessary for playing on Dreamcast hardware.

The goal then for this project was to build on optimized version of Kogami's Shenmue Undub that would bring together a complete set of Japanese audio with a fully-translated set of English subtitles, and if possible fit these onto standard-capacity CD-R discs without compromising audio quality or loss of content.

Shenmue Master initiated the project, and reached out to Phantom River Stone to work together to achieve the goal. Work took place over a span of several months and a working version was achieved. However the project was subsequently put into hibernation, due to various factors.

The project team is now pleased to announce the result of the project effort: an updated Shenmue Undub which has been named the Definitive Edition.


We're delighted to have had the Shenmue Undub: Definitive Edition covered by The Dreamcast Junkyard with a fantastic website post as well as discussion on the DreamPod podcast: Episode 82: Another Dreamcast News Round-Up. Many thanks to Tom and team for their support of this fan project!


The Definitive Edition is an extension of the Shenmue Undub version created by Kogami.

This project was led by the team at Shenmue Master who optimized the disc images. Translations for lines not officially available were provided by Phantom River Stone. (Special personal thanks to David from Shenmue Master for all his guidance and technical assistance in merging the additional translations and building test versions).

QA testing was carried out by GameHacKeR.

The Dreamcast case mock-up image was created by Shenmue Forever.

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Saturday, September 12, 2020

Ryo Goes to the Moon | Shenmue II Out of Bounds Hack

Ryo Goes to the Moon | Shenmue II Hack

One of the many small coding details of Shenmue that surprised even the fans is that the moon that can be seen in a number of iconic Shenmue II scenes is in fact a proper three-dimensional object, and not just a simple two-dimensional image.

This was something that software house d3t discovered when they worked on the Shenmue I & II re-release:

PC Gamer: Did you find anything interesting in the source code?

Noel Austin (d3t): The moon in Shenmue 2 is not a texture. It’s an actual 3D object in the distance correctly lit by the sun direction. This produces accurate phases. We were surprised by this level of detail!

With the help of a hack tool we took Ryo out of bounds on a solo flight to the moon, and he was able to see for himself that Noel's assertion was indeed the truth!

  • Scroll to the end of this post to watch the video footage.
The moon over Man Mo temple.

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Monday, September 7, 2020

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for September 2020

Every month Phantom River Stone holds a poll among our patrons to choose a topic for the blog in the coming month. After tallying the votes (including accumulated votes from previous months), the clear winning topic for September is...

"Yu Suzuki's Research Trip to China 1994: Part Seven"

In 1994 Yu Suzuki spent two weeks in China gathering material for his upcoming Virtua Fighter II game, and his findings also greatly influenced his creation of Shenmue.

  • In Part One, we translated blog posts about the trip by Kazunari Uchida, the person who accompanied Yu Suzuki.
  • In Part Two, we translated Yu Suzuki's own comments about his trip, and how his findings would be useful for the development of the Virtua Fighter series.
  • Part Three was the first of a number of diary-style articles documenting the China trip, again written by Kazunari Uchida, which were published in 1994 as a series in the Japanese Beep! MegaDrive Magazine.
  • Part Four was Kazunari Uchida's journal entry for the start of the trip itself: Day One - Beijing.
  • Part Five was Days Two and Three of the trip in which Yu traveled to Luoyang, Xi'an and Dengfeng.
  • In Part Six, Yu arrived at Shaolin Temple in Dengfeng county and observed fighting demonstrations.
In Part Seven, Yu continues his four-day stay at Shaolin Temple and is left bruised and pained after his full-on sparring sessions. "I think I might have cracked a rib..."

Watch for the article translation coming to the blog in the coming weeks!

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Sunday, September 6, 2020

Video Q&A with Yu Suzuki and Chikara Sakurai | Shenmue Anime

A short video interview with executive producer for the newly-announced Shenmue Anime, Yu Suzuki, and the anime director, Chikara Sakurai, was released at the Crunchyroll Expo.

Watch the clip below, captured by Shenmue Dojo:

Video: Shenmue Dojo


Yu Suzuki
Video Game Creator
Anime Series Executive Producer

Q: What key themes do you want to see in the animated Shenmue?

YS: Shenmue focuses on themes like love, courage, friendship, and family, which are understood around the world. My hope is that it will express the culture and spirit of Japan at the same time.

Q: How do you expect fans to feel about the animated Shenmue?

YS: Shenmue's oldest fans have followed the series for 15 or 20 years now. Part of being that kind of fan is accepting everything about Shenmue, so I think they'll accept the anime just as warmly.

Chikara Sakurai
Anime Director

Q: What were you excited about being the director for Shenmue?

CS: I mentioned that I was too poor to buy the game when it came out. But I wanted to learn as much about it as I could for free. Getting to finally play it now... It's hard to describe. It gave me this very strange feeling. It's like, I can finally do something I couldn't do then, so I need to make sure not to go out of control. I had to avoid this feeling of, "I couldn't do this back then, so now I should be able to do what I want with it." I needed to restrain myself and preserve the game's integrity. I don't know if that answers the question, but that was my approach.

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Saturday, September 5, 2020

Official Shenmue Anime Announced | News

An anime adaptation of the Shenmue game series, called Shenmue -the Animation-, was announced on the Crunchyroll website during the Virtual Crunchyroll Expo. A single preview image below was released:

While various rumors are swirling around the net, this is what has been officially revealed so far:

  • The series will consist of 13 episodes, with a plot that is based on the existing game trilogy (more specifically: "the story of the first game and most of the second").
  • Animation production is by Telecom Animation Film (a subsidiary of TMS Entertainment which is owned be Sega Sammy Holdings), and directed by Chikara Sakurai (animation director on Naruto the Movie and director of season 2 of the animation TV series One Punch Man).
  • The game's creator, Yu Suzuki, is named as Executive Producer for the project.
  • In the US, the series will be shown on the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim Saturday nights in the Toonami block. It will be available elsewhere (excluding Japan & China) on video streaming service Crunchyroll. 
  • Work on it has been going on for a while as the project was greenlit "right after the release of Shenmue 3".
  • Jason DeMarco, senior vice president and creative director on-air for Adult Swim, was the one who brought the anime project about, acknowledging in a tweet that "It was me that decided to make the show and took it to our partners."
DeMarco in a statement also said, "The world of Shenmue is fascinating and unique and we are so excited to partner with Yu Suzuki to bring his epic creation to anime - and make a kick-ass martial art epic!"

Further details are expected to be announced during the Expo's stage presentation (Sat, Sep 5, 2020 12:00 PM - 12:45 PM PT) .

The Toonami Facebook page has also announced an upcoming interview with Yu Suzuki:
"Check out an interview with Suzuki on tomorrow, and get ready for the series coming to Toonami and Crunchyroll!"

Update: the interview is now available: 

Other Information

There has also been an interesting tweet from AestheticGamer, who teased the anime announcement in the days before the event. He shared the following information (note that this is not part of an official announcement, but included here for reference):
"The Animation will air on Adult Swim (as they're backing it) & Crunchyroll, the 13-episode season tackles the first game and part of the second game. Includes a lot of story ideas they never got to put into the game either due to budget, time, or mature rating reasons. It'll be an adult animated retelling of Shenmue 1 & 2 with lost story beats, series creator Yu Suzuki has been involved to help the adaption & to realize the previously scrapped story elements to realization."
Cedric Biscay, the CEO of Shibuya Productions and co-producer of Shenmue III, also revealed that his company has no direct involvement in the project. He also gave an assurance that the anime series will have "no impact" on a potential Shenmue IV:
"1) My company and myself are not involved , it can be considered as a « derivated product » like anime usually does with manga. 
2) There is no impact on a potential Shenmue IV game."


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